Airline miles and credit card points are valuable assets, representing countless hours of travel, spending, and rewards earned. But what happens to these assets when the cardholder dies? Can you inherit those hard-earned rewards? The short answer is, it depends.

This guide will navigate the complex world of inheritance policies surrounding airline miles and credit card points, helping you understand what's possible and how to transfer these assets to your name.

Understanding Airline Miles and Credit Card Points

What Are Airline Miles?

Airline miles are a type of reward currency earned through an airline's frequent flier program. They're typically earned by flying with the airline or its partner airlines. The more you fly, the more miles you accumulate. However, flying isn't the only way to earn miles. Many airlines offer co-branded credit cards that award miles for everyday spending, and you can often earn miles through hotel stays, car rentals, dining, and shopping with partner businesses.

Once you've accumulated enough miles, you can redeem them for various rewards. The most common redemption is for flights, where you can use your miles to cover all or part of the ticket cost. You can also use miles to upgrade your seat to a higher class, such as business or first class. Additionally, many airlines allow you to redeem miles for hotel stays, car rentals, merchandise, and other travel-related experiences.

The value of a mile can vary depending on the airline and how you choose to redeem it. Generally, you'll get the most value out of your miles when you use them for flights, particularly for premium cabin tickets or during peak travel times. However, even when redeemed for other rewards, miles can offer significant value and help you get more out of your travels.

What Are Credit Card Points?

Credit card points are a form of reward currency offered by credit card issuers to incentivize spending. You earn points with each purchase you make using your rewards credit card. Different cards offer different earning structures, with some offering a flat rate of points per dollar spent and others providing bonus points for specific spending categories like travel, dining, or groceries.

The beauty of credit card points is their versatility. You can redeem them for a wide range of rewards, including:

  • Travel: This is one of the most popular ways to use points. You can redeem points for flights, hotel stays, car rentals, and other travel expenses. Some cards even offer travel portals where you can book directly with points.
  • Merchandise: Many credit card issuers have online shopping portals where you can redeem points for various items like electronics, appliances, and clothing.
  • Gift Cards: You can often redeem points for gift cards to popular retailers, restaurants, or online stores.
  • Cash Back: Some cards allow you to redeem points for cash back, either as a statement credit or a deposit into your bank account.
  • Other Rewards: Depending on the card, you might be able to redeem points for unique experiences, charitable donations, or even to pay down your credit card balance.

The value of a credit card point can fluctuate depending on how you redeem it. Generally, you'll get the most value when you redeem points for travel, especially for premium flights or hotel stays. However, other redemption options can still offer good value and allow you to personalize your rewards based on your needs and interests.

It's important to note that not all credit cards offer reward points. Some offer cash back or miles, which are similar to points but specific to a particular airline or group of airlines. Before getting a rewards credit card, it's essential to compare the different options and choose one that aligns with your spending habits and reward preferences.

Can You Inherit Airline Miles?

Policies of Major Airlines

Each major airline has its specific policy regarding the inheritance or transfer of miles after the account holder passes away. It's crucial to familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of the specific airline's frequent flier program, as these policies can change.

Airlines That Typically Don't Allow Transfers:

  • United Airlines: United's MileagePlus program terms and conditions generally state that miles are not transferable upon death and the account is closed.
  • Delta Air Lines: Delta SkyMiles also has a similar policy, with miles not being transferable upon the death of the account holder.

Airlines That May Allow Transfers:

  • American Airlines: While American Airlines doesn't have an official inheritance policy, they have been known to consider requests for mileage transfers on a case-by-case basis. This typically requires documentation like a death certificate and will, and may involve additional fees.
  • Other Airlines: Some other airlines may have similar discretionary policies or specific procedures for transferring miles after death. It's essential to contact the airline directly to inquire about their policy and process. If the airline doesn't allow the transfer of miles, you may still be able to access their value by selling them on a mileage brokerage platform like The Miles Market.

Transfer Process

If the airline's policy permits the transfer of miles after the account holder's death, the process typically involves the following steps:

- Contact Customer Service: The first step is to contact the airline's customer service department. This is usually done by phone, but some airlines may have online forms or specific email addresses for handling such requests. Be prepared to provide the deceased's frequent flier account information.

- Provide Documentation: The airline will usually require documentation to verify the death of the account holder and the heir's relationship to them.

This typically includes:

- Death Certificate: An official copy of the death certificate is usually mandatory.

- Will or Estate Documents: If the will specifically mention the transfer of miles, a copy may be required. Other estate documents, such as letters of testamentary or court orders, might also be necessary depending on the airline's policy and the specific situation.

- Other Documents: Some airlines may request additional documentation, such as proof of identity for the heir or other legal documents proving their right to receive the miles.

- Complete Additional Paperwork: The airline might have additional forms or paperwork for the heir to fill out. This could include a transfer request form, an affidavit, or other legal documents specific to the airline's policy.

- Pay Transfer Fees (If Applicable): Some airlines may charge a fee for transferring miles, which can vary depending on the number of miles and the specific policy.

- Wait for Processing: Once all the necessary documentation and paperwork have been submitted, the airline will review the request and process the transfer. This can take some time, so patience is key.

Potential Fees

Some airlines may charge a fee for transferring miles, which can vary depending on the number of miles and the airline's policy.

Can You Inherit Credit Card Points?

Credit Card Issuers' Policies

Just like airlines, each credit card issuer has its own set of rules regarding the fate of reward points when the cardholder passes away. Some issuers are more flexible than others, but it's crucial to read the fine print of your specific cardmember agreement for definitive answers.

Issuers That May Allow Transfers:

  • Chase: Chase may allow the transfer of Ultimate Rewards points to a beneficiary or estate upon providing appropriate documentation like a death certificate and will. However, they may require that the beneficiary also have a Chase card.
  • Capital One: Capital One enables miles to be transferred with a simple phone call and proper documentation.

Issuers That Typically Don't Allow Transfers:

Transfer Process

If the credit card issuer permits the transfer of points after the cardholder passes away, the process typically involves:

- Contact Customer Service: Inform the issuer of the situation and inquire about their specific transfer process and requirements.

- Provide Documentation: Submit the necessary documentation, which usually includes a death certificate, will, and potentially other documents proving the heir's relationship or legal right to the points.

- Complete Additional Paperwork: Fill out any transfer request forms or affidavits provided by the issuer.

- Pay Transfer Fees (If Applicable): Some issuers may charge a fee for this service.

- Wait for Processing: Allow time for the issuer to review and process the transfer, following up as needed to ensure completion.

Exact requirements and steps may vary by issuer. It's crucial to contact them directly for the most accurate information and guidance.

Potential Fees

Depending on the credit card issuer and the number of points transferred, there may be a processing fee associated with the transfer.

Practical Tips for Heirs

Documenting Miles and Points

It's crucial to have a clear record of the deceased's airline miles and credit card points. This includes account numbers, usernames, passwords, and any other relevant information. This will make the transfer process smoother.

Communicating with Customer Service

When contacting customer service, be prepared with all necessary documentation and a clear understanding of the airline's or credit card issuer's policy. Patience is key, as the process may take time.

Inheriting airline miles and credit card points can be a complex process, but with the right knowledge and preparation, it can be done. By understanding the policies of airlines and credit card issuers and following the necessary steps, you can potentially transfer these valuable rewards or explore alternative options like selling them on The Miles Market to ensure they don't go to waste.

If you have inherited airline miles or credit card points and are still determining the best way to proceed, contact The Miles Market for expert guidance on maximising these assets' value.